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Cambodian Land Mass More Than Originally Thought, Hun Sen Says

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures after casting his ballot in local elections at Ta Khmau town, in Kandal province.

Hun Sen said in a public speech that new measuring technology showed Cambodia’s land to be 181,335 square kilometers.

WASHINGTON DC - Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that Cambodia’s total land mass is some 300 square kilometers more than historically stated and wants to put the number in the constitution. His announcement is thought to be a response to political opponents and critics who accuse him of ceding land to Vietnam in a 2005 border agreement.

Hun Sen said in a public speech that new measuring technology showed Cambodia’s land to be 181,335 square kilometers, greater than the traditional number in fact books, though he did not elaborate on the technology.

Land demarcation remains a thorny issue in Cambodia, following the separation of French Indochina and an unwillingness of all countries to readily agree on land borders. The idea that Cambodia is losing land to its neighbors upsets many Cambodians, making the issue a political lightning rod, especially as the country moves toward elections next year.

Critics say Hun Sen should not be tempted to alter the constitution over the new number.

“An amendment that affects the basic principal of an entire nation must have a people’s referendum, or it must be studied by a joint collaboration between at least all the parties of parliament,” said Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

More importantly, he said, Cambodia needs to work to reclaim some 2,000 hectares of land in the country, especially mineral-rich land in Mondolkiri province, Son Chhay said.

Son Soubert, a senior member of the opposition Human Rights Party and former member of the Constitutional Council, said the government should elaborate on the new discovery.

Sean Pengse, a Paris-based map expert and advocate for greater Cambodian border sovereignty, said a clearer explanation is needed on the new land figures.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the suggestion was meant to update the information about the land mass in the constitution and nothing more.